England captain Eoin Morgan praised Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler and Liam Plunkett for getting his side “out of a hole” as the first one-day international against Sri Lanka ended in a thrilling tie.
Set 287 to win, England collapsed to 30 for four and 82 for six in Nottingham on Tuesday.
But a stand of 138 between Buttler (93) and man-of-the-match Woakes, who made 95 not out — the highest ODI score by any number eight batsman — revived the innings.
England’s hopes of victory disappeared in a final over where they needed 14 to win in front of a capacity crowd at a floodlit Trent Bridge.
However, with six required to tie off the last ball, tailender Plunkett drove Nuwan Pradeep over long-off to seal the tie, in what was a stunning start to the five-match series.
This was Plunkett’s first match at this level since September, but the fast bowler said he was confident his reputation as a big hitter in county cricket would be maintained on the international stage.
“I was telling myself I have been hitting it well for Yorkshire — ‘stay still and hope I get enough on it to get it out of the ground’,” said Plunkett.
“You know when you have nailed the ball, it’s like on a golf course off the tee, a similar feeling.”
Morgan added: “You can always win the game from any situation, and today proved that a little bit.
“Getting out of the game with a tie is a big result,” the former Ireland batsman said.
“Towards the end, it was in Sri Lanka’s favour, there weren’t a lot of boundaries being hit, and they bowled well.”
Woakes v Stokes
At one stage on Tuesday, it looked as if Morgan’s men, playing their first ODI of the English season, were in danger of a record defeat.
“The general performance was poor — bat, ball, field, was really rusty,” said Morgan.
“Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett have got us out of a hole at the end.
“We’ve got confidence with the guys coming in anywhere down past seven and eight — but we don’t want to leave them too much to do.”
Woakes might not even have played Tuesday had injured fellow England all-rounder Ben Stokes been fit.
But he responded to England’s slump with a career-best score, having earlier taken two wickets with some lively pace bowling.
“It was outstanding — a lot of Woakes’s story is that he is competing with Ben Stokes, and the two of them are incredible cricketers,” said Morgan.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews led from the front by top-scoring with 73 in his side’s 286 for nine and then taking two early wickets with his medium-pace bowling.
But come the finish he was off the field with a hamstring injury and it was perhaps no surprise that Sri Lanka’s ground fielding, a problem during their preceding 2-0 Test series defeat by England, became increasingly ragged in his absence.
Nevertheless, Mathews wasn’t alone in believing that Sri Lanka had the match won.
“I thought we had the game in the bag for most of the overs,” he said.
“Unfortunately the yorker fell just off line and went for a six,” explained the all-rounder, yet to discover if his injury will rule him out of the second ODI across the Midlands at Birmingham’s Edgbaston on Friday.
“For Pradeep, it happens. Unfortunately for bowlers, it happens.”
Mathews added: “We batted and bowled pretty well. We were poor in the field. We can improve in all three departments but especially in fielding.”